“Eagle Eye” is a college drinking game waiting to happen. Arm all of the participants with buzzers from the guessing game “Taboo,” and whenever someone sees a reference to a more popular – and far better – movie, they hit their buzzer and blurt it out, while everyone else has to take a drink. Buzz. “Phone Booth!” Drink. Buzz. “Enemy of the State!” Drink. Buzz. “Final Destination!” Chug. You see where this is going: the movie’s premise is an over-the-top mash-up of action movies from the last ten years, though its main source of inspiration is a movie made far before its two leads were even twinkles in their parents’ eyes. I’d say more, but to be honest, it would give the whole game away.
Shia LaBeouf stars as Jerry Shaw, a low-cash drifter type who works at a Chicago copy shop and comes back to his apartment one day to discover a complete laundry list of terrorist supplies waiting for him. Just then, his phone rings, and a woman tells him to run. Meanwhile, single mother Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) is given different but similarly themed instructions from the same woman: do as I say, or your son will die. Neither Jerry nor Rachel has any idea why they’ve been sought out by this person or what the ultimate goal of this person is, but they see first-hand that if they disobey, they will die.
And man, is it a scream when the woman puts the proof in the pudding. One reluctant assistant in the woman’s evil scheme dares to defy her, and her response is straight out of a “Final Destination” movie. Buzz. Drink. Jerry is holed up in an FBI facility, and when he goes to make his phone call, the woman appears on the line and tells him exactly how to escape, starting with jumping from a high-rise building. Buzz. “The Matrix!” Drink. Following Jerry’s escape, there is a massive car chase that wipes out half of Chicago’s police cars. Buzz. “The Blues Brothers!” Drink. The entire movie goes on like this, and even when it appears they have reached critical mass on the absurdity scale, they find a way to go even further. It’s actually pretty impressive, in a ridiculous sort of way.
Give director D.J. Caruso credit, though, for at least making it watchable. He gets a bit too Paul Greengrass-y in the car chase, but the FX shots monitoring cell phone chatter between Chicago and Washington D.C. are slick, and a little unnerving. He also makes sure the movie doesn’t become quite as self-important as, say, the Jerry Bruckheimer version would have been (though it’s still self-important just the same). It also helps to have a no-nonsense guy like Billy Bob Thornton playing the Federal Agent trying to track Jerry and Rachel down. He both grounds and lightens the movie at the same time. LaBeouf is in over his head on this one, as is Monaghan. Neither of them exudes much in the way of personality, and the forced conflict between them just sort of hangs in the air. We know we’re supposed to care about these people; we just don’t.
“Eagle Eye” is the kind of movie that believes more is better, and while that may sound great in the pitch session, it almost never works. Capping it with the biggest Message Stick pounding since “In the Valley of Elah” doesn’t help matters, either. Making a movie that’s chock full of action is one thing, but refusing to pause and take a breath is another. ADD filmmaking: it must die.(2 / 5)